By Fareeha Ahmad
Refraining from food and water, is that all what Ramadan is about?
When the month of Ramadan is fast approaching, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, immediately associate its importance with merely not eating or drinking all day, decorating their houses according to the theme of Ramadan and ironically making this month all about luxurious feasts. However, this is a very shallow understanding of the significance of this ever so blessed month, which holds incredible spiritual and reformatory power.
Therefore, in this article I aim to delve deeper into the true blessings and purpose of the month of Ramadan as well as highlighting how we can make the most of this month to ensure genuine spiritual and moral reformation.
To begin with, I would like to address some common misunderstandings that non-Muslims hold about this most precious month of the year. “You don’t eat or drink for the whole day?”, “not even water?” and “it must be so hard and cruel to not eat or drink every day of the month.” Firstly, those observing the fast are not supposed to go hungry for a whole day, but rather they eat till the break of dawn and fast until sunset, after which they can eat whatever they may desire.
Secondly, it is imperative to remember that God has not ordained the month of Fasting as a hardship or a punishment to mankind, on the contrary it is a time to attain the pleasure and nearness of God Almighty. Furthermore, God Almighty states in the Holy Quran that those who are sick or on a journey or experience some other sort of difficulty may abstain from Fasting and make up those days some other time because
‘…Allah desired to give you facility and He desires not Hardship for you…’ (2:186).
So, if God Almighty does not desire hardship for His people, then what is the purpose of Fasting? Simply put, the purpose of this month is the attainment of true righteousness, the establishment of a robust relationship with God Almighty and the doing of good towards His mankind. But are we not supposed to be doing that all year around? Absolutely we are! But the significance of this month is that the physical sacrifice of giving up food and water for a portion of the day prompts a divine response that allows us to enhance our spiritual status. It is no false notion that a person’s physical actions inevitably effect their soul, not only that but one’s diet and choice of lifestyle also has an impact on spirituality and connection with God Almighty. Thus, it only makes sense that physically forgoing food and water instils a sense of sacrifice, bringing one closer to his Creator as well as enabling them to develop empathy and endurance.
Elaborating upon the purpose of this blessed month, the Promised Messiah and Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (May Allah be pleased with him) states “Fasting is not merely staying hungry and thirsty; rather its reality and its impact can only be gained through experience. It is human nature that the less one eats, the more one’s spirit is purified and thus his capacity for [spiritual] visions increase. The will of God is to decrease one kind of sustenance and to increase the other.”
Furthermore, Fasting has been described by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as a shield that protects a believer from all sorts of sins, evil thoughts, and foul talk. The grandeur of the blessings of this month are further elucidated by the fact that “…the gates of heaven are flung opened and the gates of hell are shut, and Satans are chained” (Holy Prophet of Islam). Thus, it is complete injustice when the importance of a blessed month like Ramadan is limited to merely refraining from food and water but not reciprocating any form of strengthening one’s spiritual state and bond with God Almighty through earnest worship and the doing of good deeds.
As a Muslim who fasts during the month of Ramadan, I can say that the blessings of this month are unmatched, there is a constant force pulling you towards God, towards the doing of good to others and towards religion all together. Simply put, the month of Ramadan grants us an opportunity to overcome our spiritual, moral weaknesses and beseech for the forgiveness of God Almighty all the while making efforts to further improve ourselves in every aspect, just like we make new year resolutions at the beginning of each year.